May 13, 2009

“Protecting” Fashion Designers [11:57 am]

Slate gives a platform to apologists for the latest push to give copyright protection to (clothing) designs: Protecting fashion designers from copycats

Currently, both the knockoff and the inspired-by approaches to fashion are entirely legal. U.S. copyright law considers items of apparel “useful articles,” which are not legally protected the way books, music, and movies are. But all this could change if Diane von Furstenberg and the Council of Fashion Designers of America get their way. During the last session of Congress, a House committee heard testimony on legislation that would treat fashion design like other protected areas of intellectual property, protecting original designs against copies that are “substantially similar”—the ordinary standard for other kinds of creative works protected by copyright. Last time around, the fashion design bill didnt pass. But its supporters are now bringing before Congress a new and improved version, and it stands a better chance.

[...] [T]his doesn’t mean that fashion designs are completely unsuited to copyright protection. The solution, practically speaking, is to enable the inspired-bys to keep at it while shooing away the knockoffs, which are the ones that reduce the incentives of fashion designers at all levels to come up with new designs. Some people will buy a new Jason Wu design. But if essentially the same dress is soon available at a fraction of the price, some will go for the knockoff, especially when cash gets tight, or simply decide not to buy the design at all, because the knockoff has made the design seem less distinctive.

Copyright for useful articles — one more way to stifle through “protection” - ‘cuz, of course, as we all know, hardly *anyone* is developing new designs because of the threat of these copycats. Why, we have to create innovative programs in order to get people to enter the field!

There may be better arguments in their Stanford Law Review paper: The Law, Culture, and Economics of Fashion

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Jailbreak! [8:47 am]

Software ecosystem or walled garden? Unofficial Software Incurs Apple’s Wrath (pdf)

[F]or some owners of the Apple touch-screen device, the 35,000-plus applications lining the digital shelves of Apple’s App Store are not enough. If you want to use your iPhone as a video camera, send a photo message or hook it up to your laptop to connect to the Internet, there’s no app for that.

Or at least, no official app.

Through the efforts of developers and hobbyists, the Web is teeming with unauthorized applications for the iPhone and the iPod Touch (which does everything that the iPhone does except make phone calls and incur a monthly bill from AT&T), and there are even some independent online application stores.

However, in order to use these programs, iPhone owners have to “jailbreak” their device — downloading a bit of software that bypasses Apple’s restrictions and allows the installation of unsanctioned third-party programs.

The growing popularity of jailbreaking has set up a legal battle between Apple, which says it has the right to regulate what can go on an iPhone, and the users and developers who want to customize their phones as they see fit.

Jailbreaking is different from unlocking an iPhone, in which users modify the software so the phone can be used on unauthorized wireless carriers. For some iPhone hobbyists, like Mark Janke, jailbreaking is akin to customizing a fancy car — it simply allows owners to personalize the look of their devices, turning their phones into a brag-worthy accessory and status symbol.

[...] But according to Apple, jailbreaking is illegal and a breach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. “These modifications not only violate the warranty, they also cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably,” said Natalie Kerris, a spokeswoman for Apple.

In a legal filing [local copy] with the United States Copyright Office last year, Apple says jailbroken iPhones rely on modified versions of Apple’s operating software that infringe on its copyrights.

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